Each year, a championship exit is followed by a lament about the lack of underage success and the poverty of structures, while a win against another top side is always followed by a rehash of Jim ‘Tough’ Barry’s quote about mushrooms.
Currently, Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s side are again being lauded after the 0-26 to 1-11 win over Tipperary in their Allianz Hurling League Division 1A opener two weeks ago, but one of the stars of that victory is only too aware of how quickly things change.
“I think with Cork hurling, it’s always the way, one big victory and everyone jumps back on again,” Paudie O’Sullivan said.
“The buzz certainly seems to be there at the moment and against Tipp we played the way people want us to. When you’re taking to fellas now there’s a bit of positivity, but of course, next Monday again you could be back down to the doldrums if you lose, we just have to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”
Cork’s win — and especially the 0-14 to 0-2 half-time scoreline — surprised many outside the Rebels’ camp. O’Sullivan, however, is adamant the negative stories circulating were far from the truth.
“We’d been hearing a lot of stories before playing Tipperary, about how we weren’t prepared for it, that we weren’t good enough for it,” he said. “Obviously we all read papers and we all listen to the radio, and when it’s about Cork hurling your ears do prick up. At the same time, we knew going into training with Dave, Jimmy and Ger we could see for ourselves where we were at.
“We were scoring well in the Waterford Crystal Cup and in the challenge against Limerick, even without putting a full team out. We targeted the first 10, 15 minutes, to tear into it, and when we got on top we pushed it through, which was down to our fitness training.”
The intensity levels, especially from the forwards in defending from the front, were hugely encouraging, and O’Sullivan argued it was an area which needed improving.
“A lot has been said and written about the work-rate in the forwards, but I think, to be fair, there were games where the forwards were guilty of not working hard enough,” he said.
“We wanted to up the intensity to see how Tipp would cope with that, and they didn’t on the night, but obviously it’s the first game of the year so it will be a much bigger test in championship.”
Crisp long-range passing was a feature against Tipp, with Stephen Moylan’s first-half point, when the ball was processed through Christopher Joyce, Daniel Kearney and O’Sullivan, a stand-out moment.
While O’Sullivan points out that it was not a pre-arranged tactic, being able to switch the play is a useful weapon to have in the armoury.
“We didn’t deliberately go out to play that way, but we have fellas who are capable of giving those passes,” he said.
“There are a lot of rucks and there’s a lot of bunching now and we’re not the biggest team in the world so you need to move the ball quickly. Sometimes with handpasses they only go maybe five, 10 yards, you’re only moving the trouble a small bit, so you can get a bit more distance with a stick pass and when we did that against Tipp we got the scores.”
The acknowledgement of Cork’s size disadvantage is an indication they know it exists and are working on it, but for O’Sullivan, gym work will never be a sufficient substitute for ability.
“The reality of the situation is that’s the way the game has gone,” he said.
“Some of the Galway and Kilkenny players are massive men, but the way we look at it you have to be able to hurl as well, no matter how big you are.
“We’re hoping now to marry the two of those together — to have the strength and the hurling.”